Unified Communications Terms


Simple Terms to Understand Before Choosing Your Next Phone System

Are you shopping for a new business phone system, but confused by the tech lingo used to describe VoIP systems and features? Understanding basic terms like PBX, IVR, UC, and VoIP is essential for evaluating your options and determining what your business really needs. Here are the top terms you are likely to see when shopping for a new phone system. 


An Application Programming Interface (API) may be one of the most important features to consider in your next phone system. It allows you to customize your system. Many vendors offer "Open APIs" so your phone system can integrate easily with vendor-specific software. An API allows a software developer to extend the functionality of your phone system by integrating it with other third-party business applications, such as your preferred CRM software, for example Salesforce or SugarCRM. Ultimately, this means you can increase employee productivity, improve customer service, and get more life out of your phone system investment. 


The term, BYOD, is recycled slang term that has been modified to reflect a growing issue for corporations. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is one of the hottest trends, and biggest IT challenges, in business communications. For example, your company's sales director is attached to his iPhone, but several of your engineers prefer using their Android phones - and they all want to use the devices for both personal and work use. No problem! The days of issuing a dedicated corporate mobile device are over. Modern UC solutions can securely interoperate across a variety of mobile platforms, tablets, and even home phones. This mobile flexibility enables your employees enables your employees to access business-critical applications from their preferred personal devices. When you are able to integrate with their favorite gadgets, it helps work become more flexible and productivity goes us. Plus, your employees will appreciate not having to carry around multiple cell phones or other devices, while you save on technology infrastructure costs. 


Caller ID (caller identification, CID), also called calling line identification (CLID), calling number delivery (CND), calling number identification (CNID) or calling line identification presentation (CLIP), is a telephone service, available in analog and digital phone systems and most voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications, that transmits a caller's number to the called party's telephone equipment during the ringing signal, or when the call is being set up but before the call is answered. Where available, caller ID can also provide a name associated with the calling telephone number. The information made available to the called party may be displayed on a telephone's display, on a separately attached device, or be processed by an attached computer with appropriate interface hardware.


Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS) is a service sold by telecommunications companies to corporate clients that lets them determine which telephone number was dialed by a customer. This is useful in determining how to answer an inbound call. The telephone company sends a DNIS number to the client phone system during the call setup. The DNIS number is typically 4 to 10 digits in length.


Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) is a term for integrating your fixed desk phone with your mobile phone. Basically, it creates a seamless communication experience whether you are at your desk or on the road. With FMC, you'll never miss an important call, again. Using one phone number, customers can ring you on your desk, mobile, or home phone based on how you set your call rules, or preferences. When you call a customer or vendor, your office phone number appears on their caller ID, regardless of the phone from which you are actually calling. This creates what is commonly referred to as a "unified" view of your business. Plus, you can transfer a call from your desk to your mobile phone in mid-call, so you are no longer tethered to one location. All of this translates into a professional experience for your business when communicating with customers, and allows you to work where and how you want. 


Interactive Voice Response, or IVR, is one of the most popular phone system features, today. You might also here this referred to as an "Automated Attendant." When you call a business and an automated attendant answers, "Thank you for calling ABC Distributing. If you know your party's extension, you may dial it at any time, or press "0" to speak to an operator." That's an IVR. This phone system feature saves you money by handling repetitive tasks that would otherwise take the time and attention of a human. Just think about how much you could increase office productivity simply by eliminiating the need to answer and transfer calls. 


The term "PBX" stands for Private Branch Exchange. A PBX is simply a phone system for your business. It takes in all of the calls your office receives from the outside world and directs them to your various employees' desks. Therefore, it eliminates the cost of leasing multiple phone lines from a telephone company. It also connects the calls from one employee to another within your office, so you don't need an outside telephone line for internal calls, which saves even more on your monthly phone bill. 


Primari Rate Interface - Delivers multiple channels to the phone system allowing for multiple simultaneous phone calls.


The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a signaling communications protocol, widely used for controlling multimedia communication sessions such as voice and video calls over Internet Protocol (IP) networks.


Think of Unified Communications, or UC, as a PBX on steroids. Just like your smart phone is a single device that permforms many functions, in addition to phone calls, a UC solution can combine your business phone system, IVR, voicemail, instant message, chat, fax, conference call bridge, and video conferencing. It can also integrate with email, web applications, social media, and business tools like your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Most business are choosing UC solutions over a traditional PBX because it's a better way to future-proof their investment and keep pace with advances in technology. 


Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the transmission of phone calls over the Internet, instead of using traditional telephone landlines. VoIP, typically pronounced "voyp," is more affordable, especially for international and other long-distance calls. It also allows businesses to reduce their IT infrastructure by eliminating the need to maintain separate voice and data networks.